Saturday, June 27, 2009

Waves to Wine Kickoff Ride, 6/27/2009

And now for something completely different!

Today marked the start of the training for the MS Waves to Wine ride. A bunch of the Sun team from last year, most of whom are returning riders this year, got together for a kickoff/reunion ride.

We had originally planned an afternoon ride followed by an evening BBQ, but the weather forecast of temps in the mid-90s persuaded us to ride in the morning and BBQ at lunch. Good call,the ride was pleasant but by lunch it was hot enough that we chose to eat indoors even with backyard shade. I was sooo happy that the Terrible Two wasn't this weekend.

We started at our house in Palo Alto and headed up Page Mill Road to do the Portola Valley loop with Woodside as the turnaround point. For Jenny and I, this was the start of the tandem season. It felt a bit strange after my single road bike but we settled in pretty well considering the long layoff. The change from Shimano to Campy shifters always tricks me as the lever shift has the opposite effect. Plus you can't easily see which gear you are in on a tandem from the front.

I was happy to be starting late, after three consecutive weekends of double century rides starting at the crack of dawn. As we got onto Alpine Road we ran into people coming the other way on the Giro de Peninsula ride. The police were out in force and, unfortunately, were taking the opportunity to do a bit of fund raising by ticketing bikes for not following the letter of the law at stop signs. One member of our group got hit up at the right turn into Portola Valley Road, which has got to be one of the most ridiculous places to ticket a bike. It's obviously a fund-raising exercise not a safety issue. So that was a bit of a downer. We cruised down to Woodside, being very careful at all the stop signs, spotting another rider getting a ticket at the Mountain Home junction.

Iced latte at the Woodside Bakery and then back to Palo Alto via Sand Hill and Stanford. 21 miles, 1:30 on bike time, average speed 13.9. Not bad for a first outing. 10% of a double!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Terrible Two - Not So Terrible This Year 6/20/09

Ride time: 15:05
On bike time: 14:06
Distance: 200
Climbing: 18044'
Avg Speed: 14.1

The unseasonably cool weather stuck around for one more weekend despite warming up sharply on Thu/Fri. Whereas the cool was a problem in the Sierras it was a boon in Sonoma County keeping the maximum temperatures on the Terrible Two way below average, which frequently top 100.

Josh Beisel, Sun's Fitness Center manager joined me for this ride. Well, he rode in the van and we shared a room, but that was about the extent of our interaction as he was off with the lead pack for the actual ride. He was well rested by the time I rolled in to the finish at 8:35pm having finished two and a half hours faster in 12:32. Awesome!

I was actually quite worried about finishing this ride in the official time limit of 16:30 (17:30 for triple crown credit) as I hadn't previously done any hilly double in less than 18 hours. The cutoff for leaving the lunch rest stop seemed particularly tight for 11o miles by 1:45pm.

The ride started in Sebastopol at Analy High School which required a short drive from our hotel in Santa Rosa. Analy HS must have one of the smallest parking lots of any high school in the US and and by the time we arrived it was jammed. Luckily we managed to squeeze into possibly the last remaining space else we likely would have missed the mass start at 5:30am. This ride is much more like a race than other doubles; they have a big digital clock counting down to zero for the start and the same clock showing your ride time when you arrive at the finish.

Mass starts freak me out a little as they are always a bit crazy, everyone is excited, so the chance of a crash is quite high. Fortunately, this one went off safely and the riders quickly separated into two main groups, the racers (including Josh) and the rest. The course starts by traversing Santa Rosa with a scout car that supposedly can trip the many traffic lights. This was partially successful but the group was split a couple of times by the light going red. After Santa Rosa it was out towards Glenn Ellen and then up over the Trinity Grade into Napa Valley. Trinity Grade was quite steep but nothing I hadn't encountered before (unlike later on) with a fast descent into Napa Valley. Although I descended by myself (hills always break groups of riders up) a big group of riders eventually joined me waiting to cross onto highway 29. This was good because we formed a paceline that ran all the way to the first rest stop in Calistoga on the Silverado trail at a good clip. It's got to be one of the longest first segments of any double at 55 miles. Worried about making the lunch time cut-off, I am in and out of the rest stop quickly, initially solo, but quickly caught up by a smaller group of riders from the earlier paceline. So we motor fast up through the Alexander Valley to the turn off for the Geysers. I recognize some of the route from the rainy Wine Country 200K back in May.

The paceline breaks up as we start the climb into the Geysers. This is where is usually starts to get hot, but not today, its cloudy and still quite cool. The Geysers is an active geothermal area and the road has about six patches where it is there is no tarmac, just hard pack with some gravel. I'd told these exist because the ground is unstable and prone to washouts but the first two of these on the ascent look fine to me - it just looked as if they forgot to pave it. The Geysers has a double summit but the grade is fine and there is a rest stop at the top of the second summit. Some of the guys from the paceline had got away from on the hill but efficient rest stop management means I'm on my way before they are. Of course they catch me on the descent and now the non-tarmac sections are much more hairy. I'm amazed how fast these guys go through these sections as I feel very unstable. One guy says he is also a mountain biker so it doesn't faze him. But my wheels just feel very unstable. The descent seems to go on for ever and road surface is pretty bad and I feel like the bike (and me) is being shaken to bits. This is a continuing theme for most of the ride. Eventually we get down and cross the valley back to Warm Springs dam for lunch. The pacelines have really worked wonders for the first half ride time of 7 hours, which is I figure is the fastest 110 miles I've every done with any hill climbing involved. So, so far so good.

Its completely clouded over the the lunch stop and almost looks like it might rain. The last time I was here on the Wine Century it was pouring. The time before that was the finish of the MS Waves to Wine ride last September, when it was a little warmer. Everyone at the rest stop is incredibly helpful, making me a sandwich to order, filling my water bottles with the magic juice (I've now fixed on Perpetuem Caffe Latte as my favorite endurance ride drink). As I'm standing eating my sandwich, a couple of guys (see photo below courtesy of Bo Crane) who evidently were just out riding and happened on the rest stop, are curious about the crazy people who do these double centuries and ask me lots of questions. Fame at last!

Eventually I escape and start off alone, 45 minutes ahead of the cutoff, where, traditionally, the TT gets truly terrible; Skaggs Springs, the road built by the Army Corps of Engineers to replace the road flooded under dammed Lake Sonoma. This is two steep climbs to 2000' with a 1000' drop in between, almost all of it exposed to the sun where temperatures are often 90-110. Thankfully it's a lot cooler today but it's still hard enough to make me wonder that would be like. Remembering how I struggled at the Davis Double in 100 heat on modest grades, I do wonder if I could handle these grades of 10-12% in those temperatures. Early on in the first section my chain jams on a front chainring shift. Usually this is fixed by a quick back-pedal but not this time. At first I'm worried that the rear derailleur is broken but I eventually realize that the chain is actually jammed between the large and medium front chain rings. I manage to free it and breathe a huge sigh of relief as everything seems to be working ok again. There's a water stop at the top of the first summit and I grab a bag of peanut M&Ms and reward myself with two and a shot of drink every 100' up the second climb, where the sun has come out and it's getting a bit more uncomfortable. Fortunately the road gets shadier half way up and its easy going to the summit and then down the long descent and runout to Camp Gualala and the next rest stop. That was a long 25 miles, but everyone at the rest stop is exulting about how easy it is this year compared to the usual torture. One guys lectures me quite seriously that in a normal year this section pushes you to your absolute limits.

The bad news is the next section, while shaded, is known as the Gualala "wall". And indeed, this is the steepest climb I've ever done (so far). It's only a mile long and 900' of elevation but the grade is a sustained 16-18%. I actually switchback across the road in a few places. But my 28-27 low gearing gets me up without too much pain and it's on to the coast and Stewart's Point. At one place I encounter a fallen tree that, while not big enough to bother cars, requires me to dismount and carry the bike over it. Fortunately, this was not on a steep downhill section! I'm dismayed that there is another short climb before reaching the coast but eventually I arrive at highway 1. It's beautiful at the coast, no fog and a nice tailwind. I haven't seen many bikes lately but eventually a couple catch me up and I catch their draft for a while. One guy I recognize from last week's Alpine Challenge, who I overtook on my frantic race for the Monitor pass cutoff. This time he has the better of me as eventually I can't match his pace and he pulls away. I never see him again until the post-ride dinner.

Eighteen miles later at the Fort Ross rest stop is where I pick up my lights and battery extender for the Garmin Edge 305 bike computer. Ironically I'm not going to need the lights today as it's still only 5pm with just 37 miles to go on the longest day of the year. I'm beginning to get that manic thirst and down a cup of noodle soup, a V8 and half a Mountain Dew and a bunch of melon and (very good) strawberries. Like Gualala, there is a reluctance to leave the rest stop as up next is the dreaded Fort Ross climb, that is considered by many to be the toughest of the ride. This turns out to be just as bad as the Gualala wall except that it lasts for 1500' and twice as long. As I look up and see people on the hill I begin to question whether the eclectic mix I just put in my stomach was such a good idea. My speed is barely 3mph on most of it and midway I pass a tandem that had actually overtook me on Skaggs, walking up. Later I saw them being sagged in; a shame to have got so far and not finish. The climb is shaded by redwoods until the final section which is now in bright sunshine. The hills look beautiful. Fort Ross is another double summit and we drop down to 900' before climbing back to 1500' before the final descent into Cazadero. The road surface is really bad again on this section.

On this section I meet up with a guy who I get talking to and he mentions the Eastern Sierra double. Some if what he says sounds familiar and eventually, seeing that his bike and apparel are orange, I realize that he must be Jay from the Pumpkin Cycle blog who wrote the excellent post on the recent Eastern Sierra fiasco. Amazing coincidence. We rant for a while about that and other double-related stuff.

Once we get back on highway 128 the surface improves and magically we find another paceline that gets us into the last rest stop at Monte Rio in short order. Only 17 miles to go now. I head out alone and reach a T-junction that I can't find on the route map. I'm pretty sure I should go left but then I see Jay coming up the road to the right. He claims that getting lost is one of his things, but that we are definitely on the right road. There are no other riders to confirm that but we press on. We climb steadily up to Occidental and then turn left towards Sebastopol. I'm very glad when we start descending and I ask Jay, who rode this section yesterday, if we are done with the climbing. He says yes, but it's a lie and there's still a couple more short hills. Finally we hit a flat section and then turn onto High School Road for the last mile. Great reception at the finish, the digital clock showing my (personal) record for a hilly double and lots of people clapping and cheering. Josh is waiting patiently and seems (pleasantly) surprised to see me this early!

In another extraordinary coincidence I meet another old friend, Bo Crane, from Palo Alto at the finish, who used run the Palo Alto AYSO youth soccer program during my tenure as head coach a few years back. He's also a biker but he's here cheering on a friend who came down from Oregon to do the ride. He snapped this picture of me.

Great post-ride meal and then Josh and I decide to head back rather than stay an extra night as we are done so much earlier than (I) expected. He graciously offers to drive as I'm not sure I would be safe. I'm feeling pretty beat up; my arms in particular are aching from all the bumpy descents.

So now I've done the top three "radically difficult" doubles, Devil Mountain (DMD), Alpine 8-pass Challenge (A8) and the Terrible Two (TT), in one year. Ironically, I did my best time by far on the TT, which I was most worried about. Obviously I'm in better shape than when I did the DMD back in April, but it's still interesting to try to rank them. The TT had a lot more fast flat riding than I had expected, which helps get the average speed up, but the after-lunch climbs are monsters. The DMD and the A8 basically have no paceline riding at all, it's either up or down all the time. I'm sure the TT would be much, much harder in normal, hot, temperatures, so I think it definitely deserves its title. My personal enjoyment ranking is: DMD, A8 and TT. I score the TT last because the road surface is truly awful for long periods, whereas the A8 roads (and views) are fantastic. The DMD is somewhere in between but overall gave me the biggest sense of achievement and the still-green countryside is truly magnificent in April. All three rides are incredibly well supported with fantastic volunteers.

So, given that the TT is only a week after the A8 I'm not sure I'd do it again. It would almost certainly be hotter and tougher and I'm no fan of heat. Check back next year!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Alpine Challenge Double (aka Death Ride +++) 6/13/2009

I made it (just). Stats from my Garmin 305 (with handy battery extender):

Ride time: 19:00
On bike time: 16:41
Distance: 198
Climbing: 21416'
Avg speed: 11.8

I went up a day early to acclimatize to the altitude and stayed at
Kirkwood. Lots of snow still around and temps in the 50's on arrival. Friday dawned frosty but sunny and I went for a warm up ride in the late morning to Silver Lake and then up to Carson Pass and back. Clouds gathered during the afternoon and some light rain.

Riders were assigned start times and I had the earliest possible at
3:30am, although a few people evidently started even earlier. Saturday was cloudy with temps in the 40s, warmer than I expected but early cloud never bodes well in the Sierra. After my debacle at the Eastern Sierra the weeks before I was better equipped, at the cost of extra weight. I had two layers, arm warmers, leg warmers, bootees, three pairs of gloves(finger gloves, cold weather bike gloves and ski gloves), ski pants and a handlebar bag to put it all in. In the end I wore everything at various points in the ride. Oh, I forgot the essential but practical fashion accessory. A cool blue Walgreen's disposable shower cap. Lightweight, easy on/off even when riding, keeps the rain out and the cold on descents for the hair-challenged among us. Also a good way to meet new people as it invites comments -;)

The start was at Turtle Rock park just north of Markleeville, 30 minutes drive from Kirkwood (there's very limited accommodation much closer). I got a scare at the start as I tweaked my left calf muscle in the parking lot. Initially I thought this would be a show stopper as every time I dropped my heel, pulled back or pushed hard it reminded me sharply that it wasn't 100%. So for the first half of the ride I babied it and did most of the work with my right leg. Now you know why single leg training is important! Fortunately it improved through the day and by the end I was able to push pretty much full out. Never would have made it otherwise.

The ride starts by descending into to Carson valley and traverses along the foothills parallel to 88/395 and then up Kingsbury grade towards Lake Tahoe. The first rest stop and turn around was at 7300' where it was cold and damp. Ski pants and gloves on for the descent which was fun. Back in the valley it was light and you could see the great views we missed in the dark on the way in.

After stopping to remove the descending gear, hit the the second rest stop, where there were more volunteers than riders just before the climb up from Woodfords to Hope Valley at 7000' and then up to the top of Luther Pass at 7700'. I was trying to be efficient at the rest stops, just grab some food, fill up drink bottles and leave. I.e., no rest! After Luther it was back down to the Hope Valley and then up to Carson Pass at 8500' by 10am. I'm really happy with my schedule at this point. Still noticeably colder above 7500' and occasional spots of rain. Notice that the whole course is basically an out and back affair centered around Hope Valley and Markleeville. Of course, this allows you to spot the leaders coming down while you are going up. A right turn and a very scenic ride up to Blue Lakes at 8200'. On the way the sun comes out and I actually take off my jacket and put on my finger gloves! I'm also passed by Triple Crown Stage race contender Robert Choi, who probably started two hours after me. Everyone has their name and number very visible on their back. Had to duct tape one of my (not Titanium) water bottle cages which had broken at the rest stop. Weather turns cloudy and cold again on the long descent back to Turtle Rock for lunch. Useful to have access to the car for gear modifications, but I'm not changing anything as the weather on the next pass, Ebbetts, looks ominous. Quick sandwich and I'm on my way. No cell phone coverage anywhere so I can't call home with an update. It's just after 1pm, 111 miles, and I'm still feeling good about the time because I know how long it has taken me in the past to do the remainder of the ride. However, the fact is you still have 3/4 of the regular Death Ride to do and the two toughest passes.

It's a long ride in to Ebbetts, but pleasant alongside the Carson river and I've pulled down the leg and arm warmers. Ebbetts has the steepest grades, 12% in places, but I find it easier than I remember, probably because I recently lowered my lowest triple chain ring to 28. Half way up with the sun out, I even stop to take off by bootees! Short-lived experiment as by 8000' the rain is back and its getting really cold again. The summit is the highest point at 8750' and the rest stop has hot chocolate! Back on with the ski pants and gloves for the 5 mile descent to Hermit valley. It rains most of the way down, but at least no hail this week! Soup at the bottom rest stop, off with the rain gear and back up. Of course to starts raining again near the summit. Several people under the "sun shade" wrapped in blankets waiting it out - I don't think they are going to finish. More hot chocolate and I see it's nearly 5pm and I wonder where all the time has gone. The rain that started on the way up has stopped but the road surface is wet nearly the entire length of the descent and wet enough at the top to soak my bootees with spray. Ebbetts is the one pass with a tricky descent so its annoying that its wet, and I have to go slow. I also lose my water bottle three times from the flaky cage and the bumps and give up on it after the third time.

I turn onto to Monitor pass at 5:45 and catch one guy for about the third time and ask him how he's doing and he says ok but he doesn't think he's going to make it. I had forgotten that the cutoff for descending the East side of Monitor is 7pm. That's 8 miles and 2500' feet away, similar to Page Mill and I know how long that takes me when I'm fresh - very, very tight. And at this point I have 150 miles and
15000' on my legs. Another guy passes me, and asks me how far it is and curses when I tell him. So we team up and thrash up the climb. Of course the leaders are coming down already. There's a lot of 8-10% grade to start with and I'm worried I'm going to blow up. Once we reach the second section where the grade is 6-8% it's still tight time wise and we are passed by one of the many SAG vehicles and we ask him to drive up to the top and ask about an extended cut-off. He says not to worry as there are people 20 minutes behind us who are asking the same, and anyone who gets this far deserves to finish. We don't slack off however and make the rest stop at the 8300' summit bang on 7pm. No time for stopping as there is food and drink at the bottom of the descent. It turns out the the rest stop organizer enforced the cut off anyway and we are the last but one riders allowed to descend.

The descent to Topaz junction at 395 is one of the classics, ten miles, great surface, easy curves, just two benign hairpins, good visibility, minimal traffic and fantastic views. Hit a steady 45mph on the lower section and cruise into the rest stop to fuel up for the climb back, which is actually the longest of the day at 3300' and those ten miles. We team up with the last guy down, who also happens to be from Palo Alto, and start back up. He is struggling a bit so I elect to stay with him at a slower pace. It takes two hours to get back and it was dark and pretty cold by then. The SAG drivers hang around waiting for us to drop!

I estimate the temp was in the thirties above 8000 all day - it was 35 by the time I got back to Kirkwood which was ten degrees colder than when I started out in the morning. Back at the rest stop I request hot chocolate for my bottle, don the ski gloves one final time, but not the pants - there's one more climb back to Turtle Rock and I can't climb in them - and set off down solo (my teammate on the climb has a buddy who missed the cut off). It's a long cold descent and I realize I left the water bottle!. I have no idea how fast I'm going but I have the road to myself and my AYUP ( lights are fantastic so it's pretty quick. Thankfully no wildlife, e.g., bears or deer, make an appearance on the road. The six miles back from the junction of 4 and 89 to Markleeville is something of grind but there is cell phone coverage in Markleeville! So I call Jenny to let her know I made it. The final 400' climb back to the park seems to go on forever but then there is the sign, lights and post-ride dinner (always a winner)! I check in, pick up my 8-pass finisher jersey and chow down with a bunch of very tired looking people.

For the record, the fastest time was by the person who won the Terrible Two last year - 13:01 - just amazing.

Overall this was a very well organized and supported ride, that is
destined to be a classic. I am so glad that I was able to finish it in
its inaugural year. There were surprisingly few riders, even for the
"build your own ride" variant, i.e., you could do the Death Ride (in
reverse) if you wanted and about 60 people did that, given how many people fail to get into the actual Death Ride every year. I must say I really like the atmosphere and support of the club-hosted double centuries.

Next weeks it's the Terrible Two - hope I recover in time!

Eastern Sierra Double Fiasco 6/6/2009

Well, I "DNF"ed (bailed out) of the Eastern Sierra Double on Saturday, as I felt it was more important to be able to ride next week than put myself at risk of hypothermia. The whole experience was very frustrating and made me seriously question the judgment and competence of the organizers, Planet Ultra.

The ride was supposed to be out of Bishop, north to Mono Lake via Mammoth Lakes, then east on 120 across the valley and south back on 6 to Bishop. When I checked in they said they were changing the route owing to the weather but at that point they had no details of the new route.

The "weather" was not a typical late system front that would have impacted all areas including the valley, but was predominantly a moisture feed that was being picked up by the mountains to create localized weather. I drove over from San Francisco on Friday and had to go north over 88 as 120 and 108 were closed. There was no weather in the central valley but the cloud and some rain/snow was evident over the Sierra. However, once down into the valley on 395, the weather was fine all the way down to Bishop. It was a little cool in Mammoth owing to the altitude and you could see the rain/snow on the peaks on both sides of the valley. The forecast for Saturday that I saw was for similar to slightly better conditions than Friday, which is why I was surprised to find out about the route change.

I heard a rumor that one plan was to ride 100 miles down 395 and 100 miles back. That would probably have been relatively weather free, but not significantly better than the standard route (and a lot less interesting!). The alternate route they actually chose was a disaster because it violated one of the basic rules of the prevalent weather pattern, which is to stay away from the mountains because that is where the bad weather is. The alternate route, which we learned about at the start at 5am, had us going South to Big Pine then east towards Death Valley on 168/Death Valley Road (and then back again). Admittedly it was unlucky that the particular area we headed into had the bad weather brewing so early, but the western flanks are the most likely places for precipitation in the Sierra. [For example, on my way home, I rode up Tioga Pass with no precipitation, but it rained solidly from 8000' to 3000' on the western descent.] Although the route up Death Valley Rd didn't go that high (7000') it was surrounded with plenty of high enough peaks to create weather. Indeed as we rode down it was ironic that it was clear north up to Mammoth but obviously developing weather in the area we were headed into. Unlike the original route which had plenty of bail out options and possible shelter early on, riding 25 miles into total wilderness with no shelter or bail out options was very high risk and likely to produce exactly the result that the route change was trying to avoid. I personally bailed 12 miles out just shy of the summit when it started to hail. At that point we were facing another 13 miles out at that altitude, then a return and then a long descent, all in potentially appalling weather conditions, i.e., between 2-3 hours. That seemed like a pretty good recipe for hypothermia to me, even when reasonably well equipped for rain. Even though I bailed pretty quickly, I was very cold indeed by the time I got to back to the valley where thankfully, but no real surprise, it wasn't raining.

After checking out of my hotel I drove north to Lee Vining and could not help feel depressed as to to how good the weather was there for riding. As I had wanted some climbing at altitude I rode up Tioga Pass and back, without any precipitation. By the time I returned it had clouded over some and I could see some isolated showers to the east. So, we might well have got wet on the second half of the ride, but it would have likely been short in duration, unlike in the mountains [and the second half of the alternate route was into that area anyway].

The ride up Tioga saved the day for me. I haven't heard the fate of the rest of the riders. I saw a handful who had been sagged back to the hotel just as I was leaving, who said they were so cold they couldn't hold their bikes straight. And I know some people were up there without real rain jackets. I just hope they all got back ok.

Davis Double: Ice socks, paddling pools and rattlesnakes 5/16/2009

The heat wave duly arrived on Saturday making for a tough ride. Although I finished a couple of hours faster, at times I felt worse than on the Devil Mountain Double. Despite being advertised as such, Davis is definitely not an easy "first" double (in the heat), Solvang is much easier for a first timer. Started at 5, did the first 100 by noon, but didn't get in until 9, owing to spending increasing amounts of time at the later rest stops recovering from the heat, which was around 100 in the heat of the day. Evidently it was even hotter last year!

The tough thing about Davis is that the easy stuff is at the beginning and the end, when it is cool, and the hard climbing is in the heat of the day, and you do get to 3000' at the 100 mile mark. The after lunch section is the killer though. Although it only averages 5% grade, the climb to the top of Walker Ridge ("Resurrection") is at the hottest part of the day and with full sun on your back. At the rest top just before the summit, I have never felt more drained and had my first real experience with "hot foot". After that it's pretty much downhill and small rollers but the heat intensifies if anything. The final runout on the flat is fast, and it's amazing how much better I rode once the sun dropped below the ridge.

A nice touch, and probably critical in staving off heat stroke, were the "ice socks", provided at the rest stops. Drape one around your neck and it's good for an hour or so of cooling. At the later rest stops they also had paddling pools, which were a boon for relieving hot foot.

I counted six sqished rattlesnakes on the road.

Total fluid intake: 3 gallons of gatorade/water, 2 cokes, 2 mountain dews, 4 V8s and copious quantities of water melon.

Based on this I'm guessing that the Terrible Two really is the hardest double, since it has the same potential for heat, twice as much vertical and a hard time limit. They say you shouldn't attempt the TT unless you can finish Davis in 13; that's 3 hours faster than I managed it.

Devil Mountain Double 4/18/2009

Wow, what a ride! A little hot but glad the heatwave hadn't started two days earlier!

The Devil is 206 miles, so an hour longer riding time than previous double at Solvang (193). Started at 5am - took me 18:15 total with about 2 hours at the 9 stops on the way. At least I got in before midnight! Fastest time 12:12 - amazing!

Although its tough, it is a fantastic ride through some amazing scenery - definitely a classic. The highlights were riding up the east flank of Mt Diablo watching the sun come up and the wildflowers in the San Antonio valley before the climb up the east side of Mt Hamilton. The toughest part for me was not Sierra Rd (at 155 miles) but the climb up the east side of Mt Hamilton. It's hot, has a lot of 10% grade and seems
to go on for ever.

I can really recommend my AYUP lighting kit ( Two guys elected to ride in front of me on Calaveras road because even from behind my light was stronger than theirs. The small and light battery, nominally 3 hours, lasted 4.5 with no sign of dimming.

Solvang Double 3/28/2009

Completed my first double on Saturday at Solvang. As advertised it is a good first double. Mostly flat, very fast if you are in group and can set up a paceline. I picked up one in the morning and averaged 25 for a few miles. Lucked out with very good weather, sunny all day, no real wind. Sunday going home the fog was back and well inland. I finished in 13:45 total, 11:50 actually on the bike.

I rode the afternoon with Andy Cedilnik from Tivo, who is the Waves to Wine captain for their team! Highway 1 almost claimed another victim as at one point the road edge has crumbled away and Andy, who had let his attention wander, almost fell off the edge, much as Garland did on Waves to Wine 2008. Fortunately he just managed to hang on to the road but it was close.

Next up is the Devil Mountain Double on 4/18. Sublime to the ridiculous.